Intel. Director Facing Senate Amid Claims of Trump Pressure

Angie Massey
June 10, 2017

Top U.S. intelligence officials insisted Wednesday that they have never faced pressure to shape intelligence assessments to fit a political goal, amid questions from Democrats about whether President Trump pushed officials to drop a probe into Russia's influence on the election. They're all up there.

Republican John McCain of Arizona took a softer approach, drawing chuckles when he asked Coats, "Do you want to tell us any more about the Russian involvement in our election that we don't already know from reading The Washington Post?". Comey did not report the incident to the Justice Department or Congress.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.

The back-to-back hearings come as the White House grapples with the fallout from Comey's firing, which led to the appointment of a special counsel to take over the Russian Federation investigation in an effort to prevent even the appearance of Oval Office interference.

Wednesday's hearing was supposed to focus on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law that governs how US intelligence agencies conduct electronic surveillance and collect information between foreign powers and "agents of foreign powers" suspected of terrorism.

Two intelligence chiefs testified Wednesday that they have never felt pressured to take improper actions regarding any intelligence matter, including the investigation regarding Russia's meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

"You can clear an terrible lot up by saying it never happened", Heinrich said.

"If he's even asking.at some point, these facts have to come out", Warner said.

INSKEEP: That is pretty definitive.

The Post report went into a detailed account of Trump pulling Coats aside after a March 22 briefing at the White House and complaining about Comey's handling of the probe.

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Rogers at the hearing Wednesday said he's never been asked to do anything illegal or felt pressure to do anything immoral during his three years as head of the intelligence agency. It wasn't classified. They didn't invoke executive privilege.

INSKEEP: As opposed to being directed.

I do not feel it is appropriate for me in a public session to breach confidential conversations between the president and myself in a public session.

Many senators were not happy with their answers.

INSKEEP: OK, let's get this into the open here.

During Wednesday's hearing, which was about the reauthorization of a federal foreign intelligence collection law, Democrats and Republicans pressed Coats, Rogers and also acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

King, a few moments later: "Well, is it your testimony that when you are before this committee in a closed session you will answer these questions directly and unequivocally and without hesitation?"

Coats: "I think the investigations will determine that".

INSKEEP: Isn't all of this really just a preview, an opening act? When asked whether President Trump asked Director Coats to intervene with the FBI regarding the Flynn investigation, he returned a public statement. Jim Comey will be in that chair tomorrow giving his side of that story. Rogers refused to directly answer the question or comment upon his conversations with Trump.

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